In the short time that I’ve had a container garden, I’ve learned a few things about what not to do when it comes to planting a successful garden.
In no particular order, here are 5 container gardening mistakes to avoid:
Don’t fill a big container in the wrong place
Have you ever tried to lift a big container filled with dirt and plants? I have, and it’s not fun. When using a large container, make sure to place your pot where it will stay, and then fill it. You’ll save yourself a lot of sore muscles!
Also, if you’re planting a vegetable with shallow roots in a large container, you can fill the bottom third with empty plastic containers or Styrofoam. This will make your container much lighter, provide good drainage and make it cheaper to fill since you’ll need less soil.
Don’t over-water your plants
To avoid over-watering your plants, make sure to use containers that have drainage holes. Also, be sure to read the moisture requirements for the plants you chose and then follow what the labels say. A good habit to get yourself into before you water, is to check if the soil is moist. To do this, put your finger into the soil about two inches deep. If the soil at your fingertip feels dry, water.
A sign of over-watering is yellow leaves or limp plants. If you notice either of these signs, your soil is too wet. Move the containers to a dry spot or stop watering until they dry out.
Don’t under-water your plants
Most container gardens need watering at least once a day in the summer. Sometimes small containers and hanging baskets, need watering more often because there is less soil to hold the water. When you water, make sure to really soak your plants. If you only give them a tiny bit, the water will only wet the top layer of soil. which won’t reach the roots. I like to water until I can see it coming out the bottom of the pot.
Related tip: Make sure you have your containers in a convenient spot for watering. One year I decided to put some containers on our bedroom deck which meant I had to traipse through the house with a dripping watering can about four times a day because there was no hose. It was a real pain!
Don’t buy sick plants
If you’re purchasing starter plants rather than seeds, make sure to buy healthy plants. Buying at a local nursery is a great place to start since the staff is usually full of valuable advice. They’ll even help you pick out healthy, pest and disease free plants!
Don’t have unrealistic expectations
Before you jump into container gardening, take a look at your life. Will you be away a lot during the summer? Do you have dreams of a more relaxed summer with less to-do’s? If so, you may want to reconsider having a container garden. My first year of container gardening, I was really excited to start planting. I think I bought every type of plant that was suitable for containers. As the season went on, I lost my interest since watering the plants daily felt like one more to-do I didn’t want to do. After that initial foray into container gardening, I have since learned to either cut back on the amount of plants or forget about it completely, to make it work with my life each year.
While it may seem there are a lot of don’ts when it comes to container gardening, it’s really not that difficult to grow delicious vegetables at home! Quite often I’m surprised at how “tough” plants can be!